Mm-Hmm by Steve Denehan

It’s been nearly two hours now
he is still talking
I am still listening
after the first hour I switched hands
the phone, heavier and heavier
I’ll have to switch again soon
there has never been anyone
to talk so much and say so little

the words pour from him
traveling down the wire
hitting my ear like wingless birds
he runs through his greatest hits
growing up in Dublin
all of his jobs
money troubles
what a guy he was
what a guy he is
he talks
I listen
it’s how it’s always been

he tells me that he visited a psychic
how she knew things
really knew things
how he had been a skeptic
but no more
the psychic had told him that there had been deaths in his family
and there had
she had told him that these dead relatives asked her
to tell him
that he was a great guy
just a really great guy
he was reassured
all that kind of thing
it had cost him €50
he cannot wait to go again

for the first time in the two-hour call
I say more than “mm-hmm”
I tell him that it was a scam
a rigged game
ask him if the letter “B” means anything to him
he tells me of his great aunt, Betty
I tell him that she is dead
he is silent
I enjoy it, the silence, rare as it is
eventually he asks how I could know that
(he is sixty-one years old, his great aunt would have been over 100)
I tell him that she is proud of him
that he is a great guy
just a really great guy
I ask him if the color blue means anything to him
turns out that Great Aunt Betty had blue eyes

more silence on the phone line
then, tentatively
“Maybe you are psychic too…”
maybe I am
maybe the next time the phone rings
I will know
not to answer it

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